Change the things you can change, and accept the things you can’t.
Everyone is in control of their own destiny in one way or another, but sometimes people put faith in things that may not be as they appear.
Neil Magny puts a lot of faith in his coaches at Elevation Fight Team, and he has been a very successful fighter as a result. In his six-year, 20-fight UFC career, he has gone 14-6, won four “of the night” accolades, and in 2014, he tied for the most consecutive wins in one calendar year, when he beat five opponents in a row. Not too shabby for the New York native and U.S. Army veteran.
Magny’s last Octagon appearance was back in November when he faced Santiago Ponzinibbio in Argentina. The fight was well matched and highly deserving of its main event spot. The Brazilian outlanded Magny in the first round by almost double. However, the second and third rounds were more even in terms of significant strikes landed. In the fourth, Magny had actually landed more strikes, but at 2:36, Ponzinibbio landed the only punch that mattered, and walked away the victor. That’s what it looked like to the viewer, but Magny saw a different fight.
“The biggest thing that stuck out to me was there was a moment in that fight where I was getting my butt kicked, and I’m hearing his coaches give him advice, and telling him the things to do and to not do in the fight,” Magny told Combat Press. “I’m like, ‘man, these guys really prepared for this fight.’ When I sit back and think about how I prepared for that fight, I realize there were some things that I could’ve definitely done better, or done more of. That’s where my focus was after that fight – ‘what are those things that I can improve on, and what are those things that I didn’t do in my training camp for the Santiago Ponzinibbio fight, and how do I make those adjustments now?’ That’s what my focus has been for the last five months since that fight.”
Magny comes from one of the best teams in the country, but he also understood that it was his fight, and his career, and it was up to him to make the necessary changes to ensure future success. So, he went to his coaches, and longtime friends, to start getting better. Even after 20 UFC outings, there is always room for improvement.
“The good thing is, leading up to that fight, I definitely worked hard,” Magny explained. “I worked my butt off. But, if I asked myself if I worked hard at the things that would’ve made me successful in that fight, then the answer is no. With the hours of kickboxing I was doing, was I doing the things in the way I should’ve been doing them in order to help me being successful in the fight? If I was being honest with myself, then the answer is no to that question. So, I really sat down and addressed those things head-on. I literally sat all my coaches down, and said, ‘hey man, what did you think of the last fight, and where do you think we can improve on going forward?’ The biggest thing that everyone agreed on unanimously was making sure the work I’m putting in throughout training camp is geared toward how to be successful over a particular opponent in a particular fight.”
About two and a half months ago, Magny found out he was going to be fighting tonight at UFC on ESPN+ 10 in Rochester, N.Y. He thought his original opponent was going to be Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, but something happened, and the fight never culminated, so he got paired up against Vicente Luque in the co-main event. His preparation had been more focused than ever.
“Every single training session and every single drilling session I’ve been through, there’s always a goal in mind,” Magny said. “At the end of it, I can actually sit down with my coaches, and ask myself ‘was that goal achieved, and was that goal reached? If the answer is no, we can sit back, talk about it, and figure out what to do differently next time around, as opposed to just going through the motions of training week after week, day after day, just hoping to be prepared. I’m really trying to control the things I can’t control in training.”
Luque and Ponzinibbio are very similar opponents from a striking perspective, and both have a knack for delivering knockouts. In fact, Ponzinibbio has scored four knockouts in his last seven wins, and Luque has scored five knockouts in his last seven wins. This was a great match-up for Magny to gain redemption.
“The last fight against Ponzinibbio was tough,” Magny admitted. “I was outstruck by a really tough stiker. So, I went back to the drawing board, I focused on a couple things I did wrong in that fight, and I truly feel I made the right adjustments since that fight. To be able to go against a guy like Vicente Luque, who’s on a four-fight winning streak, and who’s a great striker, is really going to force me to see if I really made some improvements – to see what those improvements look like now.”
That last fight, and the other divisional results that happened in between then and now, boosted Ponzinibbio to the No. 9 spot in the UFC welterweight division, and pushed Magny to No. 13. Dos Santos is at 14 and Luque at 15, so this was the perfect chance for Magny to keep his foothold in the top 15 and keep climbing back to the top.
“For 2019, I’m looking to get back in that top-five position, and be ready for a chance at a title in early 2020,” Magny said of his plans. “Vicente Luque is just the start of it. He’s ranked in the top 15 right now in the UFC. I’ll move forward and get a top-10 opponent after him, and shortly after that, get a top-five opponent. That’s definitely the goal I have in mind for myself.”
Tonight’s event was shaping up nicely in another way as well, as Rafael dos Anjos – Magny’s only other loss in the last two years and five fights – is set to face Kevin Lee in the main event. Dos Anjos submitted Magny in September 2017, and is currently the third-ranked welterweight, so a win over Luque and a win for dos Anjos could have easily put those two back on a collision course for a rematch with the top of the division clogged up with a lost-love triangle between champion Kamaru Usman, former champ Tyron Woodley, and the outspoken Colby Covington.
“I think the best opponent for me would be the winner of RDA and Kevin Lee,” Magny elaborated. “RDA is currently ranked in the top 10, and I know I fought him in the past, and that didn’t go my way, but I know I can fight him better than I fought him in the past. If I can get out there and rematch RDA, I think that would be a nice match-up for me.
“In my honest opinion, I think RDA has a pretty good chance to win that fight. If you look at RDA’s past match-ups, he struggled against guys who were really dominant wrestlers. Kevin Lee is definitely a dominant wrestler, but Kevin Lee has also struggled against guys who are really crafty jiu-jitsu players on the ground. I‘m sure Kevin Lee will try to impose his will in the wrestling department, but once the fight hits the ground, it’s like who gets in trouble there?”
Well, it is too early to tell who will walk away the victor in tonight’s main event, but, unfortunately for Magny, fans already know the outcome of his fight. On May 11, he was informed that he had an out-of-competition sample that was flagged by USADA, and on May 13, the fight was called off. He addressed the issue immediately via his Instagram account:
“As many of you know, I had to withdraw from my scheduled bout against Vicente Luque on Saturday, May 18. I want to apologize to him, as I know how difficult it is to lose an opponent days out from a fight. Throughout my MMA career I have been very transparent. I am not afraid to admit when I am in the wrong. On Saturday, May 11, 2019, I received an email from USADA stating that I have been flagged due to an “out of competition drug test.” The flag was due to a metabolite of the substance “Di-Hydroxy-LGD-4033.” I have fully cooperated with USADA thus far to determine how this substance was found in the sample I provided them on May 5, 2019. I have always been an advocate for the strict drug testing in the UFC, even to the extent of opting for my collected samples to be used for research purposes by USADA. I know without a doubt that I have done everything according to the standards set by USADA. I have faith in USADA that this situation will resolved in a timely manner and that I will be cleared of any wrong doing. To all of my fans and supporters, thank you. I assure you that I have not let you down.”
The revelation was a huge blow not only to Magny, but to those who know him well. Magny has always been outspoken against PED use, and has no prior positive tests. He was the first to admit his loss to Ponzinibbio was due to things that were under his control. Outside of the improvements he made in his own camp, he traveled to Huntington Beach, Calif. and London, England to cross-train with other high-level fighters getting new looks, and becoming a better-trained athlete. However, this particular chemical, he strongly maintains, came from something he was unaware of.
The common name for di-hydroxy-LGD-4033 is Ligandrol, which is a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM). SARMs are a fairly new class of chemicals, designed to provide similar results as steroids, without the harmful side effects. Of the 13 major chemical compounds identified as SARMs, there are over 300 known supplements that contain at least one of those chemicals, and are labeled as such. Unfortunately, while some athletes have used them to gain an unfair advantage in sports, there are hundreds of athletes who have been flagged for SARMs because, in the largely unregulated business of workout supplements, some shady manufacturers will add these chemicals without listing them on labels to sell what they claim is a superior product. The business of cheating runs as deep in the supplement industry, as it does with the athletes.
Ligandrol is one of the three most common SARMs, which is currently in the clinical testing phase, and the World Anti-Doping Agency has added SARMs to its prohibited list, because they work. However, that is also the same reason why they are added to supplements, which is why more and more athletes are getting positive tests.
Did Magny willing take Ligandrol? If you ask 100 of the people who know him best, all 100, and then some, will say ‘not a chance.’ And, all 100 of them are certain that he will work with USADA to get his name cleared, which he has a really good chance of due to so many tainted supplements. As has always been his game plan since his last fight, Magny will change the things he can, but he’s certainly not going to accept the notion that he was willingly taking performance-enhancing drugs, and will fight tooth-and-nail to prove his innocence.
Magny may not be performing this evening, but he still plans to make it back to the top. As the drama at the top of the welterweight division shakes out over the course of the year, Magny plans to clear his name, keep improving his game and finish 2019 strong.